Gordon Elliott raises a glass to Punchestown scorer Champagne Classic
Champagne Classic provided Gordon Elliott with a first Grade One victory at this year's Punchestown Festival when he landed the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Title-chasing Elliott had suffered a frustrating opening afternoon on Tuesday, with reigning champion Willie Mullins significantly closing the gap.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned Champagne Classic won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, but was a 14-1 shot stepped up to the highest level back on home turf.
Monalee cut out much of the running, closely pursued by Tin Soldier, with Bryan Cooper just in behind aboard Champagne Classic.
He hit the front in the straight, but briefly looked a sitting duck when the patiently-ridden 2-1 favourite Penhill, winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, loomed up under Ruby Walsh.
However, he was unable to get on terms with the six-year-old, who winged the final flight to seal an important victory by two and a quarter lengths.
Penhill and Tin Soldier finished second and third for the Mullins team.
Cooper said: "He did it well. The better ground has brought the best out of him.
"He was a good winner at the Cheltenham Festival and he's stepped up in into Grade One level.
"He's a fantastic horse."
Elliott said: "I'm surprised he won but he's a nice horse and he's going to be a nice chaser.
"He keeps trying and he seems to like that better ground."